BANGKOK — The first tropical storm to hit the south in decades killed at least four people and left over 3 billion baht of destruction in its wake.
Officials credit the evacuation of roughly 700,000 people in eight provinces for minimizing the human toll of Tropical Storm Pabuk, which battered Thailand’s southern coasts this past weekend. The death toll for now stands at four after a missing fisherman’s body was found Sunday on a beach of Pattani province.
Not counted among the official casualties in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Pattani was a 91-year-old woman who died of an infection yesterday in a Chumphon province shelter awaiting the all-clear sign to return home. A Russian tourist drowned Wednesday on Koh Samui while trying to rescue his daughter swept from the beach by strong waves. The girl survived.
The storm made landfall Thursday before weakening to a tropical depression and crossing over to the Andaman Sea on Saturday.
Nakhon Si Thammarat bore the brunt of the storm after its eye made landfall there Friday, flooding up to 23 districts, while 11 districts in Pattani were under water, according to Chayapol Thitisak, director-general of the disaster department.
Torrential rain, strong winds and high waves caused flash floods, damaged houses and cut power lines. Airports and ferry services were shut down leaving thousands of tourists stranded at popular destinations including Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan.
Nithi Siprae, top regional tourism official, said he expects a minor impact on the industry, as this period is peak season for the Andaman region while the storm mostly damaged the Gulf coast.
Worasit Phongkampan of the Koh Samui Tourism Association said the storm could cost the island over 100 million baht in revenues.
According to Nithi, tourism in the south generated about 800 billion baht last year, a 13 percent increase over last year.
The fisheries sector is estimated to have lost more than 1.2 billion baht over the five days affected by the storm, while the cost to agriculture could rise to 2 billion baht, representatives said.
The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry promised to compensate farmers and fishers affected by the storm, including damages to crops, fields, livestock and vessels. The Industry Ministry also announced measures including exemption of annual fees to affected factories and special loans with marketing consultation for local businesses.
The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency predicted that there’s less than a 5 percent chance that Thailand will be hit directly by another tropical storm this year.